Live! On the Road with Gov. Ritter

Governor Bill Ritter signed three legislative bills in Frisco this morning before a crowd of nearly 100. According to Rep. Dan Gibbs, who introduced the three bills Ritter was signing, this was probably the first time a governor had come to this area to sign legislation.In the backdrop of the podium were beetle kill pine trees as a symbol of the importance of HB 1130, which provides safety measures to reduce the impacts of potential forest fires. The bill also provides seed money  for businesses to start entrepreneurial projects that would use the beetle kill lumber.

“This bill helped form a relationship with the Forest Service,” Ritter said, “so that we all can combat this terrible epidemic.” He noted that in a year where it was difficult to find cash to fund new projects, both Gibbs and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald were able to eke out $1 million to help fund this bill for one year in hopes that future funding will be found.

“We want to make sure to protect people, property and watersheds,” Ritter emphasized.

“We have millions of acres of beetle kill forests in Summit, Grand, Routt and other counties,” Rep. Gibbs noted. “Hopefully HB 1130 will help protect our lands and water.”

Fitz-Gerald noted that federal, state and local entities cannot solve the beetle problem alone, but this bill’s passage was a start.

With the signing of HB 1298, oil and gas companies will have to work to mitigate the impacts of their industry on wildlife. “This is a companion to HB 1341 which will re-align the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,” Ritter said. “We believe in a broader mandate, that the commission should not be under control of the industry.”

Under HB 1298, COGCC will be directed to use best wildlife management practices such as when drilling disrupts wildlife migration patterns. Gibbs felt that this was a positive step for sportsmen as well. He noted that EnCana and Williams energy companies helped build consensus for this bill and that it has caught the attention of Congress for possible national action.

The last bill Ritter signed in Frisco was HB 1229, which will make chain-up areas for truckers on I-70 safer and impose stiffer penalties on truckers who do not obey chain laws.

Gibbs said that it costs $800,000 an hour in business losses when I-70 is closed. Colorado Department of Transportation has committed over $2.5 million to improve the lighting and signage, and to almost double the amount of parking areas for truckers.

Fitz-Gerald commented that this bill will increase the health and safety of all who travel into the high country. She was pleased that not only the legislature and CDOT worked on this bill, but also the Colorado State Patrol, local law enforcement and governmental officials, the Teamsters and motor carrier companies.

Ritter and his entourage are continuing west to Glenwood Springs to sign three more bills. Colorado Confidential will be there to continue coverage of this historic trip.

Oh, by the way, Colorado Confidential was told that Gov. Ritter always wears his seatbelt.